Many people know about the Ehsan Group’s scam, where they took advantage of people’s religious beliefs through mass media and social media. This is not the first time such a scam has occurred in Bangladesh, where people’s religious sentiments were exploited. However, the Ehsan Group scam is considered one of the largest financial scams in the country so far, according to the media. Law enforcement agencies have revealed that the company has illegally taken 17 thousand crores from ordinary customers in the country. In today’s discussion, we will uncover the individuals or groups responsible for the Ehsan Group and explain how they managed to embezzle such a significant amount of money from ordinary people.
Ehsan Group Scam
Ragib Ahsan, the founder of Ehsan Group, began his studies at a religious school in Pirojpur in 1986. He continued his education at a different school in Hathazari Upazila of Chittagong from 1996 to 1999. In 2000, he completed his studies and became a mufti at a school in Khulna. After finishing his education, Ragib Ahsan returned to Pirojpur and worked at a local school. However, in 2006, he left that job and started working at a company called ‘Ehsan S Multipurpose‘ in Dhaka, where he earned a monthly salary of Tk 900. It was during his time at this company that he learned about the MLM business model.
In 2007, Ragib Ahsan applied for a license to operate microcredit activities with the Microcredit Regulatory Authority, hoping to become an entrepreneur based on his knowledge. Unfortunately, he did not receive the license. Nevertheless, the following year, he left his job at ‘Ehsan S Multipurpose’ and returned to Pirojpur, his hometown. He established a multipurpose company called “Ehsan Real Estate” and also set up a cooperative society named Ehsan Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited, which was registered with the Directorate of Cooperatives in Pirojpur. Under the guise of cooperatives, he started accepting deposits from the people of Pirojpur. At a later point, he purchased land near the Pirojpur Municipal C.O. Office intersection to establish the head office of his company, which he named “Ehsan Group.”
Ehsan Group attracted people in the village by offering them a monthly dividend of BDT 2,000 for every BDT 1 lakh they deposited. However, according to Islamic Shariah, any fixed return on deposits is considered as interest, which goes against the principles of Shariah. To convince the villagers, Ragib Ahsan, the person promoting this dividend, presented it as Shariah-compliant. He used his background in religious education and the trust people had in him as a madrasa teacher to make them believe his claims. Exploiting the religious sentiments of the villagers, Ragib Ahsan continued to promote Ehsan Group as a “Shariah-compliant, interest-free” investment through Islamic speakers in religious gatherings in Pirojpur and nearby areas. These statements made by the Islamic speakers influenced the villagers to deposit their hard-earned money with the Ehsan Group.
In rural areas of Bangladesh, many families have members working abroad in different professions. These individuals send a portion of their earnings back home to support their families. People usually try to save money, except for their essential needs. Ehsan Group targeted the families of these expatriates who had savings of Rs 1 lakh or more. The villagers were hesitant to deposit this money in banks due to the interest involved. However, they still expected a good return on their savings. Unfortunately, there were no credible and Shariah-compliant investment opportunities available to them. This is why Ragib Ahsan promoted his company to the villagers as a Shariah-compliant investment option.
To expand their reach, Ehsan Group employed various individuals from madrasas, including teachers, students, and mosque imams, as field workers and agents to collect deposits. These individuals were attracted to the company because of its promise of interest-free investment. Although the company’s registrar mentioned 427 agents, according to the agents themselves, there were over a thousand employees working for the company. These workers, who acted as agents, were not paid a salary by the company. Instead, they were enticed by the promise of receiving a 20 percent commission on the total investment of each customer they brought in.
Ehsan Group used to deposit money from customers mainly in three schemes, namely monthly savings, monthly dividend on one-time savings, and return of the full deposit with profit on the expiry of one-time savings. According to media reports, Ehsan Group used to collect deposits for various tenures, including 54 months, 56 months, 6 years, and 10 years. Common people were also more interested in depositing money with Ehsan Group instead of saving in reputed banks due to its promotion as an interest-free Shariah-compliant investment. As this activity of Ehsan Group was promoted through various Islamic speakers, according to the information of Prothom Alo, agents of the company collected deposits of Tk 110 crore from more than 10,000 customers in Pirojpur and its neighboring districts, Jhalakathi and Bagerhat districts. To assure customers that Ragib Ahsan is investing the money received from customers in the business and the profits are being made from it, the company used to pay a monthly dividend. However, it is not known for sure how Ehsan Group paid this dividend every month. However, no trace of any major business activity of the Ehsan Group or its affiliates has been found.
Ragib Ahsan started building more and more new institutions in the name of his family members when crores of rupees started flowing into the institution, mainly by exploiting religious sentiments and trapping Sharia-free interest-free investments. Among them, in 2011, Ragib Ahsan opened a company named Ehsan Real Estate and Builders Limited with his wife Salma Ahsan as the chairman. Besides, under Ehsan Group, Ehsan Savings and Loans Cooperative Society Limited, Daffodil Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited, Ehsan Basic Savings and Loans Cooperative Society Limited, Ehsan Pirojpur Bangladesh (Public) Limited, Ehsan Real Estate and Builders Limited, Noor-e-Madina International Cadet Academy, Allah Dan Textile, Pirojpur Textile-1 & 2, Ehsan Pirojpur Laboratory, and Ehsan Pirojpur Nursing Home were established, making a total of 17 institutions. Although these institutions were once operational, most of them do not exist today. In fact, no evidence was found that these institutions were in a good financial position even during ongoing operations. In this case, it can be assumed that, like a Ponzi scheme, Ragib Ahsan, through his agents, would continuously collect deposits from new customers and pay dividends to old customers from those deposits. According to the CID, in May 2012, the “Microcredit Regulatory Authority” ordered Ehsan Group to return customer savings for illegally accepting deposits. However, no information was available on whether the money was actually returned.
Ragib Ahsan appointed his relatives on the board of directors and in key positions of the Ehsan Group. Although Ragib Ahsan himself was the chairman of the company, the company’s vice-chairman was his father-in-law, his father Abdur Rab was the adviser, his sister-in-law was the manager, and among Ragib Ahsan’s three brothers, Abul Bashar was the company’s co-director, and the other two brothers were members. Due to this, the real activities of Ehsan Group and the true accounting of the company’s assets are not yet available. In addition to assigning important positions in the company to their own family members, Ragib Ahsan has purchased a total of 177 percent of the land in the name of his family members, according to the media.
Until 2019, Ehsan Group was properly maintaining the issue of paying dividends to customers. However, suddenly in 2019, Ragib Ahsan, the founder of Ehsan Group, was sued for check forgery of BDT 10 crore. It is known from the media that Ragib Ahsan had to spend 7 days in jail in this case. When this news spread, panicked and disillusioned customers asked Ehsan Group to return their deposits, and from July that year, the company stopped paying monthly dividends and deposit principals to customers. Apart from this, Ragib Ahsan himself moved away from the public eye so that the customers could not ask him to return the deposits. In such a situation, starting from the field workers, the customers started coming to Ragib Ahsan’s house and all the 17 establishments he had, demanding a refund of the deposit money. At that time, the high-ranking officials of the company took time to explain to the customers and field workers in various ways but could never return the money on time. Ragib Ahsan once again used religious sentiments to deal with this situation and bring in new investments. A large mahfil was organized in Pirojpur where popular Islamic speaker Hafizur Rahman Siddiqui and many others were the speakers. Hafizur Rahman Siddiqui claimed Ragib Ahsan as his brother and Ehsan Group as family and urged the religious people who came to the party to invest in Ehsan Group again. By doing this, many new customers were added. However, Ragib Ahsan and his associates and the Ehsan Group were not spared.
According to the information provided by OC AJM Masuduzzaman of Pirojpur Sadar Police Station, a total of 19 cases have been filed against the directors and advisors of the company, including Ehsan Group Chairman Ragib Ahsan. Additionally, 16 more cases have been filed against them in different courts of Pirojpur and Gazipur. He also mentioned that there are more cases against Ragib Ahsan and his associates in various districts of the country, including Pirojpur, due to fraud. Furthermore, the total number of cases against his father, Abdur Rab Khan, and four brothers (Abul Bashar Khan, Mahmudul Hasan, Khairul Islam, and Shamim Hasan), was 17. As the number of cases started increasing, according to Prothom Alo data, the total number of cases against Ragib Ahsan and his associates in courts and police stations is 73. RAB arrested Ehsan Group Chairman Ragib Ahsan and his brother Abul Bashar Khan from the Topkhana Road area of the capital in September 2021 due to various cases. Ehsan Group has actually embezzled a total amount of money from customers. Although the RAB officials could not provide any specific information about it, according to information received from various media, it has been reported that customers have been embezzled BDT 17 thousand crore. In the afternoon of the same day, Pirojpur Sadar police station arrested two other brothers of Ragib Ahsan, Mahmudul Hasan and Khairul Islam. By that time, the other accused Ragib’s father Abdur Rab Khan and another brother Shamim Hasan were absconding.
After the accused were caught, Harunar Rashid, a resident of Mulgram village in Pirojpur Sadar Upazila, filed a case with the police station, accusing Ragib Ahsan and his four brothers of embezzling a total of 1.1 crore taka (1 crore 15 lakh 55 thousand 933 taka) from 97 customers. Mahmudul Hasan and Khairul Islam were arrested in this case, and the police sent them to jail on September 10 with the help of the court. The next day, on the afternoon of September 11, RAB handed over Ragib Ahsan and Abul Bashar Khan to Pirojpur Sadar Police Station, and the police arrested them in the same case and sent them to jail. Later, the responsibility of investigating these cases was transferred to CID and PBI. According to Humayun Kabir, Special Superintendent of Police, Organized Crime Division, CID, after investigation, a case has been registered regarding the withdrawal of Rs. After the investigation, CID inspector Mir Kashem filed a case against Ehsan Group Chairman Ragib Ahsan and seven to eight others as unknown accused in Pirojpur Sadar police station on December 23.
Meanwhile, in January 2023, Abdur Rob Khan, advisor of Ehsan Group and father of Ragib Ahsan, was also arrested from Chhota Khalisakhali of Pirojpur municipality. Later in February, the Pirojpur court ordered the seizure of five sale deeds in the names of Ragib Ahsan, his brother Abul Bashar, Khairul Islam, Shamim Hasan, Mahmudul Hasan, and Ragib Ahsan’s wife, Salma Ahsan. According to this directive, a total of 177 percent of the land, including the documents where the multi-storied building of the Ehsan Group’s head office is located, was encroached. Moreover, only Tk 12 lakh cash was received from 25 banks of Ehsan Group. However, doubts have been raised about whether it will be possible to return the money of so many customers, considering the rumored amount of money embezzled against the Ehsan Group, even with these assets and the money in the bank.